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Synfig Studio 0.63.

05 User Documentation

Manual 1 - Introduction & Diving In


Overview
As you probably know, animation is the rapid display of a sequence of images in order to create an
illusion of movement. Traditionally 2D animation is created by drawing each displayed image
individually. Those images are called "frames" and thus such method called "frame-by-frame
animation". To create good illusion of movement you need to draw many frames, that's why his
method requires a lot of time and resources.
Synfig Studio is open-source 2D vector animation software. It is designed to produce film-quality
animation with fewer people and resources.
Synfig Studio is built to eliminate the need to draw each frame individually. There are two
techniques for that:
Morphing animation
Cutout animation
Morphing is a technique that takes two images and creates a smooth transition between them. In
the process of transition one shape is deformed into another and this transformation is usually
defined by control points. In Synfig Studio images constructed from vector shapes and the
morphing is done in automatic way. That allows to create animation by drawing only key positions
at relatively wide time intervals. You can draw as many frames as he need to create basic sense of
motion for the scene and Synfig Studio takes responsibility to create in-between frames.
Cutout animation is created by splitting objects into parts and applying some simple
transformations to them (like translation, rotation or scale) at different moments of time. Synfig
Studio uses those values to interpolate the motion for in-between frames. Cutout animation can be
produced from bitmap images or vector graphics.
In both cases the role of Synfig Studio is to fill the gaps between the drawn frames (also called
"keyframes") and produce smooth and fluid animation. This process is called "tweening". But
tweening is not the only advantage of Synfig Studio.
Although Synfig Studio is not directly intended to draw animation frame-by-frame, it can be used to
bring your hand-drawn frame-by-frame animation to the film-quality level by converting bitmap
data of each frame into vector format. This process is called "tracing" and usually done by hand by
constructing vector shapes on top of bitmap image. In the process of construction you can apply a
lot of fascinating effects built into Synfig Studio to achieve a professional look for your animations.
Whether you do frame-by frame animation or not, Synfig Studio gives you flexible control over the
repeated data, such as colors, outline characteristics, textures, images and many more - even
animation trajectories and their sets (actions). Reusing repeated data is achieved via linking. This is
a power of Synfig Studio, which is especially important for big animation projects.
Among the plain linking pieces of artwork data you can also define relations between them using a
set of functions. That allows to create automatic animation based on the defined laws and bring
whole animation process to the new level.
All those features of Synfig Studio are covered in detail in the chapters of this manual.

Getting Started
User interface
The screenshot below displays Synfig Studio's window layout:

Default interface layout of Synfig Studio


Synfig Studio main interface components are:
Toolbox is the main Synfig Studio window. It contains system menu and buttons, tools
and more to create and edit your artwork. Closing it exits the application.
Canvas displays your artwork and animation.
Panels contain tools and information about certain elements of your project. Some panels
will allow you to modify those elements.

Note
Synfig Studio can be reset to its default window arrangement (as shown in the screenshot). In the
"File" menu from the Toolbox select "Panels Reset Windows to Original
Layout".

The center window is the Canvas Window. A new Canvas Window appears each time Synfig Studio
starts. The window represents the Root Canvas, not that it means much to you at the moment, but
that's OK we're just trying to show you around. In the upper left corner of the Canvas Window,
you'll see a button with a caret. If you click on this caret button, the canvas window menu will pop
up. If you right-click in the canvas area and there is no Layer under the mouse position, this menu
will also appear. So now you know where the most important canvas menu is. Good.
The other two windows (one on the bottom, and one to the right) are customizable dock dialogs.
Each dock dialog contains a set of panels, arranged horizontally or vertically. Some panels share the
same space inside the dock dialog and you can switch between them by clicking on their tabs. You
can rearrange the contents of dock dialogs as you wish by dragging the panel tab to where you want
it. You can even create a new dock dialog by dragging a tab out of its dock dialog.
If you accidentally close a panel (by dragging it out of the dock dialog, and closing the new dock
dialog that gets created), no worries. Simply go to the Toolbox, select "File Panels" in
menu right there and then click on the name of the panel you need.
The most important panels are:
Layers Panel shows you the hierarchy of the layer of your working canvas. It also allows
you to manipulate these layers.
Params Panel shows you the parameters of the layer currently selected. When multiple
layers are selected, only the parameters that the selected layers have in common are
displayed.
Tool Options Panel shows you any options specific to the currently selected tool.
Navigator shows a thumbnail image of what the currently selected canvas looks like. You
can also zoom in and move the focus around with this panel.
History Panel shows you the history stack for the current composition. You can also edit
the actions in history.
There are also many other panels in Synfig Studio. If you have no idea what a panel does, simply
hold your mouse over its icon and a tooltip will pop up describing its function.

Under the hood

Layers Panel
Synfig Studio, like most every other competent graphics program, breaks down individual elements
of a canvas into layers. However, it differs from other programs in two major ways:
1. An individual layer in Synfig usually represents a single "Primitive". I.e. a single region, an
outline of a region, an imported image, etc... This allows you to have a great deal of
flexibility and control. It is not uncommon for a composition to have hundreds of layers
(organized into a hierarchy for the artist's sanity of course).
2. A layer can not only add information on top of the image below it, it can also distort and/or

modify it in some other way. In this sense, Synfig's Layers act much like filters do in Adobe
Photoshop or GIMP. For example, we have a Blur Layer, Radial Blur Layer, Spherize Layer,
Color Correct Layer, Bevel Layer, etc...
Each layer has a set of parameters which determine how it behaves. When you click on a layer
(either in the Canvas Window, or in the illustrated Layers Panel), you will see its parameters in the
Params Panel.

First steps
Let's create something fun so that we can play with it!
First, go over to the toolbox and click on the Circle Tool (if you don't know which one it is, just
mouse over them until you find the one with the tooltip that says "Circle Tool").
When you click on the Circle Tool, you should notice that the Tool Options Panel changed. But
we'll get to that later.
With the Circle Tool selected, you can now create circles in the Canvas Window. This works as you
might expect click on the canvas, drag to change length of the radius, and release the mouse
button when you are done. Go ahead and create two circles (or more, if you fancy). If you
accidentally release the mouse button before dragging, you end up creating a circle with 0 radius
and it is effectively invisible! No need to worry, you can easily fix this. In the Params Panel, you
can change the parameters of the selected object. If you just made a 0 radius circle, it should be the
current selected object. You can change its radius to some value other than 0, say 10, and
manipulate it to your liking with the canvas ducks later.
Note
Some users might experience the following problem: when you click and drag on the canvas using
the Circle Tool, either nothing seems to happen or you end up making insanely huge circles. To fix
this go to "File Input Devices" and disable all the devices you can find there. If you
have an extended input device that you want to use, such as a pressure-sensitive pen, then enable it
in this screen. After this change Synfig will work as expected.
Now go back to the toolbox and click on the Transform Tool (the button with the arrow on it). After
you do this, click on one of your circles. You will see a "bounding box" (which is kind of useless at
this point in time, but I digress), a green dot at the center, and a cyan dot on the radius. Those dots
are called "ducks". If you want to modify the circle, grab a duck and drag it around. Easy!
You can select a Layer by clicking on it. If you want to select more than one layer, hold down Ctrl
key while you are clicking this works in both the Canvas Window and the Layers Panel. Try it!
You can also select multiple ducks. You can do this in several ways. First, you can hold down Ctrl
and individually click the ducks that you want selected, but this can be tedious. However, there is a
much faster method just create a selection box by clicking the mouse and dragging it over the
area of ducks that you want selected.
Go ahead, select two circles and select all of their ducks. With several ducks selected, moving one
duck will move all of the ducks.
Note
Synfig Studio has an autorecovery feature. If it crashes, even if the current file has not been saved,
you will not lose more than 5 minutes of work. At restart it will automatically prompt to recover
the unsaved changes. Unfortunately history isn't recovered yet.
The rotate and scale tools work much like the Transform Tool, except in the case where you have
multiple ducks selected. It is much easier just to try, than read about it. Select a few circles, select

all of their ducks, and try using the rotate and scale tools.
Note that duck manipulation tools have options associated with them. If a particular tool isn't doing
what you want, take a look at the Tool Options Panel to see if it is set up the way you want.
Development Notes:
You may find that Synfig Studio is SLOW, making it practically unusable on the old hardware.
The biggest reason for this is that all of the color calculations are done in floating point to
enable High-Dynamic-Range Imaging.
However, some major re-implementations and optimizations are planned to be made that should
quite dramatically improve the performance of Synfig on all platforms. The goal is not a 200%
speed increase, but at least a 2000% speed increase. Currently there is a work in progress in
development branch implementing those optimization via OpenGL. It already shows very
promising results, but is not ready for usage yet.

Linking
Now let's try linking. Suppose we always want these two circles to be the same size. Select two
circles, and then select both of their radius ducks (the cyan dots).
To select multiple ducks, either drag a rectangle around them, or select the first one, then hold the
Ctrl key while selecting the rest. Once you have the two radius ducks selected, right click on either
duck and a menu will pop up. Select "Link". Boom. The parameters are linked together. You can
prove it to yourself by selecting just one of the circles and changing its radius the other one will
change as well. Neat stuff, eh? This is how outlines are attached to their regions but I'm getting
ahead of myself.
Linking is a fundamental concept in Synfig. You can create links not only between ducks, but also
between parameters as well by selecting multiple layers, right clicking on the parameter in the
Params panel, and selecting "Link".

Color selection
Let's say you want one of the circles to be a different color. If you look in the toolbox below the
tools, you'll see the outline/fill color selector, the outline width selector, and some other stuff like
the default blend method and gradient. The outline/fill color widget works exactly as you might
expect you can click on the fill color, and a modest color chooser will appear. Now you can
change the color pretty easily.
But sometimes you just want to click on a color and go. This is where the palette editor tab comes
in.
Click on the Palette Editor panel tab and have a look it's the one with the palette-ish looking
icon. Clicking on colors with the left mouse button will immediately change the default outline
color and clicking with the middle mouse button will change fill color.
That's all great, but we still haven't changed the color of the circle. There are three ways to do this.
The first is to click on the "Fill Tool" from the toolbox, and then click on the circle in the
Canvas Window. Boom. Circle changes color. This works with more than just circles. Also, you can
select the circle layer you want to modify, go to the Params panel, right-click on the Color
parameter and select "Apply Fill Color" or "Apply Outline Color" at you
preference. Or simply double-click on the "Color" parameter - a color selector dialog will show
up, and you can just tweak away.

Try playing around with the circles for a bit. Muck around with the parameters, and see what
happens. To get you started, try out to set the Feather Parameter to 5.

Digging deeper
Of course, so far you just found out how to use the basic features of Synfig Studio but not how you
animate a drawing. This is covered in the next section.

Animation Basics
Introduction
Creating an animation in Synfig Studio is really easy. It basically means to change a drawing you
just need to create the first stage and last stage of a change, and Synfig takes care of the steps in
between.
Let's look at a simple example. Consider a moving light like the one at the front of the Knight Rider
car. Drop the realism, you get a circle moving from left to right and back. In other words, you need
to create three 'steps' or 'stages':
1. The circle is on the left.
2. The circle is on the right.
3. The circle is back on the left.

Setting up the workspace


Let's do it. Start Synfig Studio. New file is automatically created at the start. Click the 'caret' menu
(between the horizontal and vertical rules, in the top left hand corner of the canvas), then select
"Edit Properties". The Canvas Properties Dialog will appear.
Give a name and description for your canvas, then click "Apply" (don't click "OK" yet we're
not quite done with the Properties dialog). Go to the "Time" tab and make sure to edit "End
Time". Change "5s" to "2s" that will make our animation 2 seconds long.

Canvas Properties Dialog


Now click "OK", select the Rectangle Tool and create a simple black rectangle that will serve as our
background. It's not necessary to make it cover the whole canvas.

Now we need a circle. Change the fill color to red, select the Circle Tool and create a circle. It
doesn't matter if it's not perfect: You can edit it. Select the Transform Tool and click the circle. It
will go into an editing mode which is easy to detect by the small green dot in the middle and the
white rectangle around it. You can move the circle by grabbing it on its green dot (the Origin) in the
middle.

These are the first steps to draw an object and to move it, but not an animation yet, you may say.
Indeed. Let's have a look how this works.

Adding movement
In the beginning, you entered a value of 2 seconds in the Properties dialog. Because the length of
your animation is non-zero, your canvas window (the one where you draw) has a grey time slider
at the bottom, the Timebar. You can click on it, and a small orange indicator will appear indicating
your position in time. Try clicking in several places on the time slider and notice that the entry
field on the left of the time slider is changing its values to something like "12f", "1s 15f", etc. You
can set your position on the time slider by changing values in that field. For example, if you enter
"1s" and press Enter, the orange indicator will move in the middle of the time slider, and
entering "2s" will move it to the end of the time slider.
Note
At 2s the orange indicator won't be visible. That's because "2s" is at the far right boundary of the
time slider, putting the indicator out of view.

You may notice that nothing changes on the canvas at this point. Switch to Animate Editing Mode
by clicking the green man button to the right of the gray time slider. The canvas will display a red
outline; it reminds you that changes to your objects now affect your animation at the time shown in
the time slider.
In animate editing mode, every change to your objects creates a waypoint that associates the
changes with the current time. As you will see, Synfig can create smooth intermediate changes
between waypoints, and you can even choose the way in which the intermediate changes take place.
You will probably find it helpful to associate some or all of your waypoints with keyframes.

Previously, three "steps" or "stages" were mentioned. These are represented by keyframes. (Just in
case you're familiar with video encoding: No, it's not the same!) A keyframe is an image in time
where something important happens with your objects.
Go to the Keyframes Panel click on the little tab with the small key icon in the bottom window
to edit keyframes. Now press the small button with the "plus" sign and you should get a new
entry in the list displaying "0f, 0f, (JMP)".

Now, go to the "1s" mark in the time slider. The small orange indicator should move there. Then
add another keyframe by clicking the small plus sign. Repeat the process with the time slider
indicator set to "2s" (it's at the end of your animation). You should now have three keyframes in the
list.

The s's and f's: Understanding the Timeline


By now, you may have figured out what those mysterious "1s 10f"-type marks represent. They
indicate a specific point on the timeline, expressing a location in terms of seconds (s) and frames
(f).
By default each second is divided into 24 frames, much like a meter on a measuring tape is divided
into 100 centimeters. The frame markings begin at zero (0) and go up to 24, whereupon a new
second is entered and the framecount returns to zero.
For example, when five whole seconds and three frames have passed, using this timeline notation
would be "5s 3f".

The Keyframes Panel


The Keyframes Panel is rather easy to understand. It displays "Time" which is basically the start
time, "Length" which is self-explanatory, "Jump" which we'll cover next, and
"Description" which is, again, self-explanatory.
Now, you might be wondering about the entries called "(JMP)". In fact, these are links just like
web links: click them, and the indicator in your time slider will jump to the correct time.
You can use this to edit your image for a given moment in time. For instance, you can now jump to
the first second, and move the red circle to the right. There! You made your first movement, your
first animation with Synfig!

Wondering where the animation is? Just click to an arbitrary position on the time slider: You will
note that the red circle is in a new position, one that you didn't specify! So what happened? Synfig
figured out what you would like to do, namely move the circle, and drew all the images between
these states. Each image will later make a frame in your animation and the circle will appear to be
moving.
Note that you don't need to go to the last keyframe at "2s" and move your circle back to the left.
Keyframes make Synfig remember the image states at particular times. That's why when we
modified the circle's position at "1s", it stayed on the left at "2s" (as well as at "0s"). If you switch
back to the Params Panel, and look at the Time Track Panel you will see that three orange diamonds
(or green dots in previous versions of synfig) appeared on the right of the "Origin" parameter.
Those are called Waypoints, and they represent times at which object's parameters, like location or
color, are instructed to take on specified new values.

Rendering your animation


Before you can see your animation, you need to render your work. There are two ways to do so:
using the Synfig Studio (what you have been using so far) or the command-line program called
"synfig".
Let's try the first way. Leave the animate editing mode by clicking on the red dot in the timeline
editing widget, and save your file; for instance under the name "BasicKnightRider.sifz". Then go to
menu in the Canvas Window ("caret" button in the upper left corner) and select
"File Render". Change the filename to "BasicKnightRider.gif" in the same location where
you saved "BasicKnightRider.sifz" and choose "gif" target format instead of "Auto", then click
Render. Depending on your processor speed it should take a few moments, but finally the image
window status bar (located on the bottom of the window) should say "File rendered successfully".

Calling "Render" from menu in Synfig Studio


Note
The "magick++" target (if it is available) produces much better gif files than the "gif" target
because it can optimise the palette for the image.
Open BasicKnightRider.gif in Firefox or another application that is able to show animated gif's.
However, Firefox will replay the GIF all the time which makes your short animation a rather long
one. If you're now seeing a red circle moving from the left to the right and back, congratulations!
You just made your first animation!
Note
You can also preview your animation. Press the "caret" menu button in the upper left corner of the
Canvas Window and choose "File Preview".
If you would rather use the command line instead of the menu to render your animation, then open
a terminal (on Windows, go to "Start Run", type "cmd" and press Enter), change to the
directory you saved the file in, and type something like this:
synfig -t gif BasicKnightRider.sifz

A few messages appear that don't matter right now. Depending on your processor speed it should
take a few moments, but finally a line like this will appear:
BasicKnightRider.sifz ==> BasicKnightRider.gif: DONE

Then you are done and can view your animated gif using Firefox or another program as mentioned
above.

Conclusion
Of course, the position of an object is not the only thing you can change with Synfig Studio. Other
possibilities include its size, its outline, its color, etc. Synfig comes with several example files that
should let you dig deeper into the possibilities.
Now, let's continue with the next manual chapter: Adding Layers

Adding Layers
Introduction
In the previous tutorial, you made your first simple animation by changing the attributes of
primitive objects, such as: position, color, and size. These simple types, however, are seldom
sufficient to create advanced characters and objects. To do so, Synfig uses layers. They are similar
to layers used in other drawing applications in that they are used to separate different elements of an
image.
However, Synfig's layers are different from layers in other programs in at least two aspects:
1. Every object, element, and effect gets its own layer. There are not layers of multiple
primitives or multiple effects.
2. The up to down layer combination allows you to use upper layers to change the behavior (or
look) of underlying layers. Those are called effect layers or filter layers.
As you will see, layers are an extremely important aspect of Synfig, much more so than most
graphics programs. Understanding the concept of layers is an important part in understanding how
Synfig works.

Combining layers
So let's look at a simple example of how we can combine two layers to create a gradient effect on a
rectangle.
Create a new file with 0 duration. There's no need to bother with a timeline at this point. Next,
create a simple rectangle with the Rectangle Tool.

Pick the Gradient Tool from the Toolbox, press the left mouse button on the canvas, drag to change
the gradient direction and release the button when you are done. You should note that another layer
was added in the Layers Panel called Gradient. This is nothing special.

Note
If you see no gradient but just a plain color, that means that you probably just clicked on the
canvas without dragging your mouse. To fix that pick the Transform Tool, click into the canvas to
activate the gradient's ducks. You need to grab the one you see and move it a bit until a gradient
appears.
You now have a gradient, but it is not what you wanted: it spreads across the whole canvas. The
goal was to have a gradient in the rectangle. So, let's fix this now.
In the Layers Panel, select both the gradient and the rectangle layer. Then, right-click and select
"Encapsulate" from the menu. The view of your Layers Panel should change now, showing a
small box called Inline Canvas with an arrow in front. By clicking on the arrow you can expand the
inline canvas to see its contents, your previous two layers: the gradient and the rectangle.

You can treat this layer like any other layer move it around, duplicate it, copy and paste it. If you
want to change the name of it to something more descriptive, just select the layer in the layer tab
and click on its label. Then you just edit it in place. You can do this for ANY layer, and are strongly
encouraged to do so.

Using locality
However, there is still a problem: the gradient still covers the whole canvas although we wanted it
to be restricted on the rectangle. To do so, activate the gradient layer in the Layers Panel. Now go to
the Params Panel (by default it resides in the bottom window), and search for the attribute called
"Blend Method". Double-click the entry and select "Onto" from the drop-down menu.

The gradient should now be restricted to the rectangle. Congratulations! You just made your first
effect by interacting layers with Synfig.

If only for the additional organization, encapsulating layers into inline canvases dramatically
improves the ease of use of Synfig Studio. But lots of programs can do this. The concept of scope as
just demonstrated sets Synfig apart from other programs with layer hierarchies. The key point is that
a layer can only modify the data that it gets from directly below it. In other words, if you were to
throw a Blur Layer on top of the layers inside the inline canvas we created, it would just blur them
anything under the inline canvas would not be blurred! Let's try it.

Using layers to modify other layers


Make sure you have the Inline Canvas layer selected and create two red circles. They will appear on
top of the Inline Canvas. Select the Inline Canvas layer and use the "Raise Layer" button in
the Layers Panel to place it on top of the circles.

Now our inline canvas layer (with rectangle and gradient) is in front of those two circles.

Expand the inline canvas to show its contents, and select the top layer inside of it (should be the
gradient layer). This is where we want to insert the new layer. Create another circle filled with a
black color. The black circle layer will be created over the gradient layer inside the inline canvas.

Now, right click on the black circle layer in the Layers Panel and a popup menu will appear. The
first item in that popup is "New Layer". Inside of the "New Layer" menu, you'll see several
categories of layers you could create, but what we want is a blur, so go to the Blurs category and
select the "Blur" layer (so that would be "New Layer Blurs Blur").

Well, it blurred... but something is not quite right the outside edge of the contents of the inline
canvas is still sharp. It is doing this because the blend method of the blur defaulted to
"Composite" (you can change the default blend method for new layers from the New Layer

Defaults section of the Toolbox). What we want is a blend method of "Straight". Just select the
blur layer, and change the Blend Method to "Straight" in the Params Panel.
Note
In the Synfig version "0.62.02", the blend method for newly created blur layers is
"Straight" if the default blend method in the Toolbox is set to "By Layer Default".

Ok, now we have all of the contents of the inline canvas blurred, but everything under it is sharp!
This is because the effect of the Blur Layer over the underlying layers is limited to the scope of the
Inline Canvas because the Blur layer is inside it.

Digging further...
If you care to look into Synfig's main menu under "Layer New Layer" you will note quite a
lot of different possibilities for making layers. Several of them sound rather unusual, like
"Transform Rotate" for example. You can use this to add new attributes to your objects.
And just like other, basic attributes in the previous animation tutorial, you can change them to be
different on certain keyframes. Synfig will take care of interpolating the steps in between.
For example, you could create a shape and add a Rotate Layer over it. Combine this with the lesson
learned in the last tutorial and you will obtain a rotating effect. This technique is used for the
creation of Cut-out Animation.
Let's continue digging further on shapes creation.

Creating Shapes
Introduction
Basic primitives such as circles or rectangles are all great, but they are pretty much geometrically
inflexible. What about creating more complex shapes? To do this, we use the BLine Tool.

BLine Tool
In Synfig, the construct for describing shapes is called a BLine. This is roughly analogous to a
"path" in other programs, except that it is strictly a cubic hermite spline.

Reset Colors button in the Toolbox


Before we start with the BLine tutorial, let's look at some additional notes on how Synfig works.
When you click on the BLine Tool, you will see that the ducks from your currently selected object
(if there was one) will disappear, but the layer(s) will still remain selected in the Layers Panel. This
is normal. Anything you create with the BLine Tool will be inserted above the currently selected
layer. Keep in mind that if you want to insert a shape somewhere, you should select where you want
to insert it before you go into the BLine Tool changing the selection afterward will automatically
swap you back to the Transform Tool.
Now, go ahead and click on the "Reset Colors" button in the lower left corner of the FG/BG
color widget in the toolbox. This will reset us back to the default black and white. Also, set the
default line width to something nice and thick 10pt should do the trick.
After you switched to BLine tool, take a look at the Tool Options Panel. Make sure that only
"Create Region BLine", "Create Outline BLine" and "Link Origins" are
checked.
Clicking with your mouse in the canvas will place vertices. While you are placing a vertex, you can
drag out its tangent by dragging the mouse. Do this over and over, and you construct a BLine.
Keep in mind, however, that during this construction, there is nothing stopping you from just
moving it if you don't like where you placed a vertex or a tangent. Honest! If you want to remove a

vertex, right click on it and select "Delete Vertex". Want to split the tangents? Right click on
the tangent and hit "Split Tangents". Want to loop the BLine? Right click on the first vertex
and select "Loop BLine".

When you are finished placing vertices, you must exit construction mode in order to actually create
the BLine layer(s); there are 2 ways to do this:
1. Switch to another tool.
2. Press the "Create" button at the bottom of the Tool Options Panel (it's the icon that looks
like a gear).
For now, just go ahead and switch to the Transform Tool, because we are done with the BLine Tool.

Editing BLines
Ok, we now have a nice pretty white region with a thick black outline. Since we checked "Create
Region BLine" and "Create Outline BLine" in previous steps, you'll notice that there
are two layers that we have created the Outline and the Region in the Layers Panel. Despite the
fact that they are two separate layers, their vertices parameter has already been linked so you can
select either one and move its ducks around and the other one will also change.
If you want to manipulate the vertices after you have created the layers, it is very easy to do so. Just
click on one of the layers and have at it. If you want to remove a vertex, right click on it and hit
"Remove Item (smart)". Want to insert a point somewhere? Right click on the segment
where you want to insert something and hit "Insert item (smart)".
This may appear to be leading to a mess of layers. And yes, if you aren't using the software
properly, that is exactly what you will get. But there is a way to make this more sane. As mentioned
in the previous tutorial, you can encapsulate layers into hierarchy.
One quick thing to mention before I finish up. You can change the width of an outline at each
vertex. You do this by selecting the outline layer (NOTE: you must select the Outline Layer, the
Region Layer has no width data) and tweaking with the width ducks. By default, these are masked.
To show them, press Alt5 or click "Toggle width ducks" button at the top of the canvas
window (the fifth one from the left). Repeat to hide them again. You can also see other things to
mask via the Canvas Menu Caret: "View Show/Hide Ducks".

Using tablet to draw shapes


If you have a graphic tablet you can use Draw Tool to create BLines.

Synfig Studio supports pressure sensitivity, but you need to configure it first. Go to
"File Input Devices..." from toolbox menu. In the Input dialog find your tablet's
stylus device and set its mode to "Screen". Click "Save" and then "Close".
Now grab your stylus, create a new file and click on the Draw Tool button in the toolbox. Set the
default line width value to be big enough say, 15pt otherwise you will not notice any pressure
sensitivity effect. Choose brown as the default fill color.
Note
Steps above should be done with the stylus of your tablet, not the mouse. Synfig Studio
remembers settings for each input device independently. That's why if you set those options with
your mouse device they will not have any effect when you switch to stylus.
In the Tool Options Panel, make sure that you have the same options as shown on the screenshot
below.

Now let's draw some thing like a curvy mountain background. Start drawing a line from the left
border to the middle of the canvas. Try to vary your stylus pressure while you are drawing. Stop
near the center of the canvas. This is your first line. Notice the new outline layer created in the
Layers Panel.

Point your stylus at the last duck of your new BLine and continue drawing to the right border of the
canvas. When you finish, look at the Layers Panel again. There's still only one outline layer. Synfig

Studio is smart enough to figure out that you don't need a new outline layer and properly extends
the last one. You can extend the BLine from both ends, but if you start drawing from any other place
of the canvas a new outline layer will be created. Though your first line will remain selected and
nothing stops you from extending it later.
Back to our artwork. In the Tool Panel hit the button with the bucket icon to fill the outline we just
created. A region layer will appear at the top of the layer we are working with. Select the outline
layer and press the "Raise Layer" button in the layers panel to put the outline layer on top of
the region.

Extend a line from both sides down to the corners of the canvas to make the fill appear at the
bottom. Great.

Go ahead and add a few more lines on top of the filled area to give it a mountain-like look. If brown
ducks are in your way, you can hide them by clicking the "Toggle vertex ducks" button at
the top of the canvas window (the second one from the left).

Warning!
Don't use Alt2 shortcut to turn off visibility of vertex ducks while you using Draw Tool. There's a
bug that will cause Synfig Studio to hang.
Development Notes:
This bug is fixed in the upcoming release (0.63.00).
Draw tool is great for drawing complex shapes, but you end up with a bunch of ducks, which are
hard to manipulate with the Transform Tool in the way we described above. There are two solutions
here.
First, you can increase the "Smooth" value in the Tool Options Dialog while using Draw Tool.
That will reduce the count of vertices produced at drawing time, but will make your shape less
detailed.
Second, you can use Smooth Move Tool to deform an existing shape. Go for it and click the
Smooth Move Tool button in the toolbox. The trick about this tool is that it affects selected ducks
only. Press and hold your left mouse button in an empty place of the canvas. Drag to create a
selection box. Release the mouse button when you are done. Or just hit CtrlA to select all ducks.
Now you can deform the selected segments of BLines. You can change the size of the influence
area by tweaking "Radius" in the Tool Options Panel.
What about outline width? There is a Width Tool for that purpose. It is designed for increasing or
decreasing the width of a line much like you would with a pencil on paper. Click the Width Tool
button in the toolbox, move your stylus over the line you want to change, press and move the cursor
back and forth along the line, like you are scratching something. The width of the outline will be
increased at the places where you moved the cursor. If you want to decrease the width, just hold
"Ctrl" while scratching. Easy!
If you don't want Width Ducks to be displayed, during usage of the Width Tool, just turn them off
by pressing the "Toggle width ducks" button at the top of the canvas window.
Warning!
Don't use Alt5 shortcut to turn off visibility of width ducks while you using Width Tool. There's a
bug that will cause Synfig Studio to hang.
Development Notes:

This bug is fixed in the upcoming release (0.63.00).

Other ways to create BLines


Is that all? Not yet. You can use Circle, Rectangle, Star and Polygon tools to create BLines too. Just
check the "Create Outline BLine" and "Create Region BLine" options in the Tool
Options Panel when using those tools.
Creating geometric primitive as BLine gives you a better control over it's shape and look. For
example, if you want a deformed star, then you can use the Star Tool to create it as outline and
region BLines and then use the Transform Tool to deform it.
Now you are ready for the last tutorial in this section. Hang on!

Animating Shapes
Basic settings
In this tutorial we will learn how to create a simple animation of a growing flower using BLines.

Start Synfig Studio a new animation will be created. If you already have Synfig Studio started,
select "File New" in the toolbox.
First, we need to create a gradient for a background. Click on the outline and fill colors in the
toolbox to select the colors our gradient will have. You can also directly edit the gradient by
clicking the gradient line in the toolbox.
Select the Gradient Tool and drag your cursor vertically across the canvas to fill it with the gradient.
Next, select the BLine Tool and in the Tool Options Panel, make sure that only "Create
Region BLine" is checked. In the toolbox, set the fill color to green. Draw a kind of triangle
with the BLine tool. To close the shape after drawing the 3 vertices, right click on the first vertex
and choose "Loop BLine".
Now that the trace of the form is closed, you can generate the proper form by selecting another tool
or by pressing the button with the gear icon at the bottom of the Tool Options Panel.

This will be the base of the stem. You can tweak the tangent handles (red dots) a bit to make a
rounder triangle. With the Transform Tool, right-click on each vertex and select "Split
Tangents", so the tangent handles of each vertex can be moved separately. We're done with the
basic settings.

Animate the stem


In the Canvas Menu, select the caret menu icon in the upper left hand corner, where the rulers
intersect, and then select "Edit Properties". Go to the Time tab, set the "End time" to
"6s" and click OK button.
Click at the beginning of the timetrack ("0f"), then, in the Keyframes Panel (the one with a key
icon) click the button with a "+" icon (add a new keyframe). Keyframes allow us to settle down the
scene; i.e. on a keyframe, every element of the scene will have all its properties remembered. Click
again on the timetrack, at "4.5s". Press the green circle at the bottom right of the canvas (or
whatever icon you have there, depending on your icon theme) to switch to the Animate Editing
Mode (the circle is now red).
With the Transform Tool, select the green sprout, and move the upper vertex up to make a stem. You
can play with the vertex handles to bend the shape a bit if you want.

While you are still at "4.5s", right-click on the stem border, close to the top, and choose
"Insert Item (smart)". Do the same on the other side of the stem. Right click on those
new points and choose "Split Tangents". Then try to make a shape that looks like the one on
the image, to create the flower bud.

Now if you click on "2s" (for example), you'll see that the shape of the bud is slightly visible,
even if the sprout is rather small, and even if the bud ducks are invisible.

Note
Due to a bug introduced in 0.63.02, the "Insert Item (smart)" won't produce a correct
"Off" point at the previous keyframe (at 0s). You have to move the time cursor to 0f and right click
each vertex and select "Set Active Point Off" .
Development Notes:
This bug is fixed in the upcoming release (0.63.05).
Let's say we want the bud to appear only at 3.5s, and be full size at 4.5s.
Click on "3.5s" on the timetrack. Now take a look at the "Params" and "Timetrack" panels
at the bottom. You'll see that each parameter in the Params Panel matches a row in the Timetrack
Panel. The last parameter is the vertices list. Click on the small arrow on the left to unfold the list.
You should see something like this:

Each big green dot (or waypoint) stands for a recorded value (here the vertices positions were
recorded at 0f with the keyframe, and at 4s when we moved some vertices or vertices handles). The

two vertices we added to make the bud are marked at "DYN" (dynamic). Right-click on them in the
params list, and select "Mark Activepoint as Off".
The panel should now look like this, the grayed part being the part where the bud vertices have no
effect on the stem.

For example if you click on "2s" or even "3s" now, the bud shape is not visible. It starts to
appear only a little after 3.5s.
However, the shape of the stem may not look very nice during its growth between 0 and 4s. Make
sure you're still in Animate Edit Mode, and tweak the shape at various moments in time, to get
something you like.
The animation of the stem is now finished, but it still lacks the petals. You can watch a preview of
your animation: Go to "File Preview", validate, wait for the preview to be generated, and
watch.
Note
Previews are often pixelated and blurry, but the final render will be clean-cut. Higher quality
previews are obtainable by using higher values for 'Zoom' and 'Frames per second' in the preview
dialog window.

Adding the petals


Now leave the "Animate Editing Mode" by clicking on the red circle at the right bottom of
the canvas.
Change the fill color to pink, and create a petal with the BLine Tool. You'll notice that the green
duck that allows easy movement of a shape is at the center of the canvas. Select all the vertices of
the petal with CtrlA and move them close to the green duck (with the Transform Tool), as shown.

Then drag the green duck very close to the top of the bud. Hit CtrlA again to select all vertices of

the petal and tweak it a bit with Rotate Tool. Also, in the Layers Panel select the petal layer and put
it under the stem layer. Click on the petal to select it, then ctrl-click on the stem. Both objects
should be selected.
Now click on the vertex at the top of the stem and ctrl-click on the green duck of the petal (both
should appear in a lighter color, as they are selected). Then right-click on the stem top vertex, and
select "Link". The petal will move a bit as the green duck is snapped on the stem vertex.

Now that there's a link between the petal and the top of the stem, when the top of the stem moves,
the petal will follow the move. (And if the green duck of the petal moves, the top of the stem will
move, but we don't want to do that here.)
On the Layers Panel, select the newly created Petal layer and duplicate it (with the third button, on
the bottom of the Layers Panel). On the canvas, press CtrlA to select all the vertices of the
duplicated petal, and move them a little, so the petals are no longer overlaid. (Don't move the green
duck, just the orange ones). Repeat the process several time, to get something looking like this
image.

Note that the duplicated petals are also linked to the stem. If you go back to the first keyframe,
you'll see that the petals are visible. We don't want that. We want the petals to appear and bloom
almost at the end of the growth.

Hiding the petals


Let's say we want the petals to appear a little after 4 seconds in the animation, and be full size at 5
seconds, instead of being visible and full size all the time.
Switch to "Animate Editing Mode" again by clicking on the green circle at the bottom right
of the canvas. But if we will go to "4s" and modify them, then they also change at "5s". Because
the shape/position of the petals is not fixated at this moment of time by any waypoints or

keyframes. That means that we need a keyframe at "5s". On the timetrack, click to place the
cursor at 5 seconds. On the Keyframes Panel, click on "+" to add a new keyframe.
Now click on "4s", and on the Layers Panel, select all the petals layers (with ctrl+click), then
press CtrlA to select all the petals vertices. Scale them down with the Scale Tool, and move them,
so they are hidden by the stem, as shown.

From 4s to 5s, the petals will now appear and bloom. But notice that we have a keyframe at 0s
which also remembers petals shape. That makes the problem the petals are still visible from the
first keyframe to the 4s keyframe. We could either make the petals tiny and hidden tweaking their
size on every frame from 0s to 4s, or we could make them invisible on this interval.
Let's choose the second solution. To make things easier, we are going to encapsulate the petal layers
into an Inline Canvas. With all the petal layers selected, right-click on them on the Layers Panel and
select "Encapsulate". You can rename the layers to make things more understandable.

Select the "Petals" inline canvas and jump to the first keyframe. In the Param tabs, set the
"Amount" value to "0". The petals are now invisible on that keyframe. Note that two waypoints
were added in front of the "Amount" parameter, one at 0s and the other at 5s. Drag the 5s
waypoint to 4s, so that the opacity of the petals will be 1 at 4s.

There is still one problem left: from 0s to 4s, the opacity of the petals slowly increases, making the
petals visible when they shouldn't. To solve this, we will change the Amount interpolation method.
Right click on the Amount waypoint at 0f, and select "Edit". A new dialog will appear, in which
you can choose the In and Out interpolation. Set the Out Interpolation to "Constant".

Tip
You can also change waypoint Out interpolation by right-clicking on it and selecting
"Out Constant".
This means that after that waypoint, the Amount value will remain constant, until another waypoint
is encountered. So from 0f to 4s the Amount value will be equal to 0, and at 4s it will suddenly
changed to 1, and make the petals visible, as expected. Alternatively, we could have achieved the
same effect by setting the In Interpolation of the waypoint at 4s to "Constant".
Notice how (half of) the waypoint changes from a green circle (meaning smooth animation of the
amount parameter) to a red step (meaning that the amount parameter is suddenly stepped).
Now you're done. The stem grows for 4.5 seconds and then stays still the last 1.5 seconds. The
petals are hidden until 4 seconds, and then grow quickly between 4 and 5 seconds, and stay still the
last 1 second too.
Click on "File Render" to render your animation. Select any format you want, and ensure
that "Use current frame" option is unchecked (otherwise, one frame only will be rendered).

Next Steps
This is the end of the introductory tutorials. From here you can take a look at the Interface page, or
continue reading or doing the rest of Tutorials. The Manual gives you a list of the available articles
to read for a more complete understanding of Synfig.

Content of this Synfig Studio Documentation is available under the terms of Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

All content created by the Synfig Studio Documentation Wiki authors.


Compiled & PDF Document Creation using LibreOffice by Oliver Horn.
Version 12/14/2012 (Synfig Studio 0.63.05)